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GOCRITIC!

GoCritic! Review: Winter Flies

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- Susanne Gottlieb takes an in-depth look at the highly anticipated new film from Olmo Omerzu, which screens in Karlovy Vary's Official Competition

GoCritic! Review: Winter Flies

In Winter Flies [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Olmo Omerzu
film profile
]
, Prague-based Slovenian filmmaker Olmo Omerzu’s new road movie, nothing is as you would expect. As Omerzu takes the viewer on a trip from the Czech north to its vast southern plains, he will introduce viewers to two young boys on the run across a snowy landscape, a picture as rare as flies buzzing through the cold air in winter. By fully immersing into this incongruity, the film spins a moving tale of an unlikely companionship, even if could have used some smoothening out at the edges.

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As in his second feature Family Film [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Olmo Omerzu
film profile
]
(2015), Omerzu’s point of departure is throwing children into an adult situation. Here he places 14-year-old Marek (Tomáš Mrvík) and 12-year-old Heduš (Jan František Uher) in a stolen car, sending them on a cross-country trip. The reasons for running away are unnamed and left to the viewer’s imagination. Instead of seeking freedom in the vast wilderness, this road trip serves the escape of all the wrongs in the world, replacing the genre’s typical warmth of summer and bustle with winter slowly sweeping across the fields and woods, engulfing any form of joy or livelihood. Abandonment issues are one catalyst keeping this getaway engine running, as Marek later remarks to a police woman who interrogates the runaway in a police station about the stolen car. His mother, he says, doesn’t bother, as "she has TV, Facebook and the women at Kaufland".  But as the story progresses, the two boys will have to figure out that being wronged is not only confined to a single place and to those close to you.

Though the set up might have given way to a more tragic angle, Omerzu avoids giving in to that impulse. He pairs darker moments with a fine sense of humour, creating a cathartic niche of pain and reality. This is enunciated through the situational comedy by the two fantastic first-time actors, or the hormone-driven dialogue that two teenagers engage in. Scriptwriter Petr Pýcha doesn’t shy away from any chance to depict the two encouraging each other in their desire for having sex with short-time ride-along Brána (Eliška Křenková), while also shifting tonal registers when the two rescue a dog from drowning and make him their companion.

The journey takes the boys across a whitewashed landscape, tinted in different shades of grey and blue, and ultimately directs them to the home of Marek’s grandfather, the only person the troubled kid seems to have an attachment to. As they find him in a delicate state of health, former bigwig Marek throws away his grown-up attitude and turns into the child that he should be, fearing for his only positive relationship in the world and becoming vulnerable in a very raw and emotional way.  

What the film can be faulted for, perhaps, is its occasionally predictable depiction of the boys’ fine line between being creepy and merely pubescent. When Heduš forces hitchhiker Brána to take the ride with them, or tries to join her as she sleeps alone in the car, his naïve, skewed morality becomes clear. Making Heduš a weird kid who likes playing with toy guns and who gets overly attached is one thing, but given that her sole dramatic function is as a trigger for sexual desires, Brána’s character is not very well fleshed out: her story arc is short and underwhelming.

As both Heduš and Marek come to realise, you can’t run away from things, as tempting as it may seem. Their discovery is made as soon as they leave the safe haven of their car and step into an icy reality. But the upbeat nature of Omerzu’s storytelling gives us reason to believe that, unlike the fate of many of their older peers, it won’t break them.

This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.

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